CWops Open, Bug Keys and Bootcamps

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Roger Cooke G3LDI has his usual bi-monthly cornucopia of things Morse.

 

Roger Cooke G3LDI has his usual bi-monthly cornucopia of things Morse.

 

The CW Operators Club (CWops) Open Contest took place on September 1st. This actually consists of three separate contests and operators can take part in as many of the three as they wish. They are scored separately. However, because there are also teams involved and now that CWops have a large UK membership, it was decided to enter a TEAM UK. The team members are listed in Table 1.

I was using the special CWops callsign G2CWO and entered all three contests, as did the rest of the team. At the time of writing we are still awaiting the results but it was a very rewarding contest to enter. I didn’t have to sit at the rig for 16 hours at a time, managed to feed myself and the cat between contests, and even grab some rest!

CWops UK now have their own IO group to post to: [email protected]

The N1MM+ contest logging program caters for the CWops contests very nicely and although I was working with my antennas in a poor state, I did manage quite well. It looks as though my dreams of doing antenna work in 2018 have now faded until 2019. I just hope I am still about and able to climb the towers. I do need to go up three of them to sort things out.

We were quite pleased with the turnout in the Open event and decided to meet up at the Newark Hamfest, those of us that could get there, to have a group photograph taken. The Norfolk Club (NARC) coach just managed to get us there in time for me to rush straight to the RSGB stand. As you can see from the photograph, Fig. 1, we do look a motley crew, more like a line-up at the local police station! However, Newark is not demanding on appearance, so I don’t think we were unduly worried.

CWops encourage others to learn CW with the CW Academy. Stew GW0ETF is a key figure in this and if you are interested, take a look at the CWops website for more details:

https://cwops.org

 

Bug Keys

FOC (the First Class CW Operators’ Club) runs an event called Bug Day. The next FOC Bug Day is scheduled for Tuesday, January 1st 2019, 0000-2359UTC. There has been continued interest in an activity twice per year (to run alongside the Mechanical Key Days) where the idea is to get on the air using those classic bug keys. It is open to both members and non-members. Other CW clubs may have similar events.

Most operators of my vintage started with a straight key and after a while on one of those, hankered after a bug key. That was the Holy Grail of the day. If you had a bug key, you could reach astronomical speeds of 25WPM or even more. The Morse emanating from a bug was dependent on the set-up of the bug and the skill of the operator in handling the number of dots transmitted. Because the dashes were made by the operator, with the finger on the paddle (assuming he was right-handed), it was possible to insert ‘character’ into the Morse. Lengthened dashes became a trademark of some operators and you could often tell who was sending before hearing a callsign. A swinging CQ could sound quite attractive in those days.

Unfortunately, all that has disappeared into oblivion with the advent of electronic keyers and paddles, together with the search for ever more accurate Morse and mark/space ratio.

I graduated to an Eddystone bug. They were very popular in the 1960s and I now wish I had never sold mine! The one shown in the photographs belongs to Mike G4DYC and he has sent a few details:

“I attach a couple of images of my Eddystone Model No. 689 Bug Key. I understand they were manufactured between 1948 to 1949. Some sources state that only 350 were made. Personally, I am not sure about that production number. There are a number in circulation/on internet sites and the like – unless the same ones just keep circulating. Over the decades a number must have even been scrapped or lost.

“The serial number on my Eddystone key is DZ1023.”

Looking at the photo, you can see why they are called bugs although see below for an alternative explanation. In fact, I think the Eddystone key was the only one to actually look like a bug. Mike also sent me a picture of his early Vibroplex bug key, Fig. 3, which as you see is nothing like a bug. Mike says the serial number on that is 100,272 giving the build date as 1926. You can actually see a picture of a red bug on the Vibroplex key if you look closely.

However, in a note from Tom K3TW, he says that a bug appeared on the early Vibroplex keys, so it may have been a trademark. Tom wrote this:

“I was curious why a semi-automatic key was named a Bug and I found this interesting article:

www.telegraph-history.org/bug

“This makes sense because there is an emblem of a real bug on Vibroplex bug keys.

“I owned my first bug (a Vibroplex Presentation) back in 1965 before I built a homebrew keyer with a pair of 12AU7A values. I eventually graduated to a solid-state keyer with memories.

“The word Bug strikes a special feeling for me. Without going in to a lot of details, I worked for the Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security (and was on assignment for a few more Government agencies in the same business). My job was to identify and find ‘bugs’, also known as covert listening devices in our overseas US Missions.”

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More History

On the historical side of Morse, if you want to read how it was done in the dark ages, take a look here:

tinyurl.com/telegraphinstructor

The Telegraph Instructor, via the link above, is a good read for those seeking information about our Morse code ‘roots’ before wireless (radio). The first few PDF pages are almost blank but persevere and you will be well rewarded with a rare insight into early Telegraphy. This link was sent in by regular PW reader and contributor Bob Houlston G4PVB.

 

Bootcamps

By the time you read this, the Essex Bootcamp (October) and the second Norfolk Bootcamp (November) will be history. However, here in Norfolk we plan on running two per year and I think Essex are doing the same. The really good news is that while I was attending the FOC 80th dinner in Cambridge, I learned that two more were intending running their own bootcamp. Rich G4FAD and Gavin GM0GAV both plan to hold their own bootcamps and have promised to send me details when arrangements have been made. Indeed, why not plan one of your own?

Essex CW now have all the gear, available on loan, that is required. All you have to do is provide the venue. The following events are planned at the time of writing:

October 27th, 2018. G0IBN at Witham Essex

March 10th, 2019. GM0GAV. Venue to be arranged

May 4th, 2019. G4FAD. Venue to be arranged

So, what started here in Norfolk several years ago is now spreading and that can only be great news. Actually, although Andy G0IBN mentions about borrowing equipment, it is easy to arrange a bootcamp with gear that most amateurs have available anyway. Andy has produced a list of what each attendee should bring along to the events he is involved with:

• Morse key with 3.5mm jack and 3.5/6.0mm adaptor.

• High impedance headphones, same jack requirements.

• Writing pad and pencil/pen.

• Name badge with callsign.

• Registration Fee £10.00 (exact amount, cash only).

Andy has obviously forgotten the cake, sausage rolls and so on! Here in Norfolk we don’t charge anything because our Bootcamp is held at my place. Most of those attending bring some goodies cooked by the wives, so we have a great social day too. That is half the battle - enjoy the day and the rest will follow.

Please keep the input coming. 73 and may the Morse be with you! Roger G3LDI.

 

 

This article was featured in the December 2018 issue of Practical Wireless